Coming off two very enjoyable shows in Tahoe (see bottom for review), Las Vegas was shaping up to be quite a mid-week event. And after it's all been said and done the reports indicate that the shows at The Joint (the club inside the Hard Rock Cafe) lived up to the expectations. While of course I wanted to be there... three nights in Los Angeles would have to suffice, at least for now.

Covering Ground | 8.01.03 - 8.03.03 | The Wiltern | Los Angeles, CA

Covering ground indeed, and in more ways than one. First off, as I've been claiming, Widespread Panic is truly finding its legs since that dark day when Michael Houser fell ill and unable to play. Each show, or at least each "run" I've seen, has grown in intensity and ability. Confidence is spreading, and in turn so are the musical moments.

Now I did mention that they were "covering ground" in more than one simple way? What I mean is that my cover band showed its face over the weekend, and made it ever so clear why they are the best damn cover band around! Of course they do have a few good ones they wrote themselves (maybe 200 or so), and a few of them were very impressive over the weekend, but it was really the rare covers that blew The Wiltern Theater open.

By Adam Gulledge
Allow me to illustrate this cover band point as we slide into Friday, August 1st. As far as I've noticed the band has been taking the stage close to ticket time (which was 8:00pm). But in Los Angeles me and mine were as close as we could get to Schools (they wouldn't let us laggers have wrist bands for the floor - but it didn't matter, we were about ten people back and eye level) by 7:45 and nothing happened 'til around 8:30. We were getting antsy and talking about how odd it was that the band wasn't on stage and then it went dark. JB strapped on his axe and began to do this rapid fire noise-inducing strum mayhem that is fairly rare itself and almost always reserved for sweaty mid-section freak-outs. But there was JB rippin' his hollow body and the rest of the band was following suit. There was definitely an air of confusion as people were having a hard time figuring out what the hell was going on. I was thinking "Four Cornered Room" (giving a tip of the hat to Los Angeles '70s super-group WAR) and before I knew it there was a nasty-black groove coming under JB as he set the harmony... "I was slipping into darkness when they took my friend away..." As I realized it was WAR, just not what I expected, I felt the arm of my good friend rap around me as he said, "Are you f*#kin' kiddin' me... SLIPPING INTO DARKNESS!?" Widespread Panic turned The Wiltern upside down so quickly that I am not sure if I ever recovered over the course of the three-night extravaganza. This monster of a cover started to show up when Mikey was taken from us and has only been busted out eight times (although it did show up in New Mexico a few weeks ago), and it is simply one of the best damn songs I've ever heard any band open with. It was beyond cool, and while it maintains a party vibe with the Schools bass and cool feel, it pulls at the heartstrings just as much. I mean John Bell singing, "I was slipping into darkness when they took my friend away. You know he liked to drink good whiskey while laughing at the moon" was almost too heavy for me. Come on, JB talking about his whiskey-drinking friend being ripped from his life as he slips into darkness, are we sure John Bell didn't write these words about a year ago!? I guess we've all slipped into a bit of darkness since Mikey was pulled away, and it was quite an interesting phenomenon to be full-on boogie-down raging, and yet have to fight the tears back. Perhaps you could call that yet another duality that Panic encompasses.

The rest of the set was good as well, but it's pretty damn hard to come back after that opener. There were several songs that have been in heavy rotation, but setlists can be funny things when you play a vast array of improv in your songs. "Little Kin" out of "Slipping Into Darkness" was strong and after "One Arm Steve" I saw something even more rare than "Slipping Into Darkness."

By Adam Gulledge
During the intro to "Bear's Gone Fishing" I saw John Bell slip harder than I ever have. Now don't read this as a bad thing... at least not entirely. JB came to the mich to deliver the opening lyrics and there just weren't any words. He mumbled and mushed up a few sounds, but couldn't seem to get them words out. The reason this isn't really that bad is that it proves JB is human. The guy is beyond amazing. He blows my mind every time I see him. He delivers vocal/lyrical genius ALL the time and rarely screws anything up, so to see JB mess up for a moment was actually fine with me. It took a while for both JB and the band to finds its feet again, and "Bear's Gone Fishing" never really recovered (although JB did throw some serious licks into the "jam" and it was sounding good).

From there JB and the boys fell back into form with a strong "Rock." The "Traveling Man" followed by "Pilgrims" was enjoyable, and allowed for interesting setlist interpretation, as "Traveling Man" was the last song Mikey wrote and "Pilgrims" is a Mikey classic that George has been working overtime on, but the connotations weren't overwhelming as "Thin Air (Smells Like Mississippi)" ended a good opening set.

At setbreak all anyone was talking about was the "Slipping Into Darkness." Definitely an incredible way to start a weekend run, and for me it overshadowed the remainder of the evening. Although there were several other gems stuck into the second set. And of course a couple of choice covers.

By Adam Gulledge
Neil Young's "Mr. Soul" lit the second set up quick and proved to be yet another amazing cover choice for an opener. Wasting no time at all, things got hot and sweaty immediately. "Dyin' Man" had some aggression (especially coming out of "Mr. Soul") and the "Old Neighborhood" that followed was funky and fun but it was when things got dark again that Panic really packed a punch (duh).

The Schools-led "Blight" was very well done and a sure highlight of the evening for me. The depth of the song both instrumentally and lyrically is a testament to the band and has never disappointed me. The remainder of the show was enjoyable and showcased some heavy improv. During the "Chilly Water > Drums > Chilly Water" I saw the security staff wearing some scared eyes as water was flying through the air and people (such as myself) were screaming lyrics at the stage.

After "Chilly" set II ended as such: "Pusherman," "Rebirtha," "Tall Boy," "Imitation Leather Shoes." Now you must realize that setlists can be somewhat deceiving. All of these songs appear frequently on setlists, and while of course we want to see rare selections, when they really play these songs, and dig into them allowing them to open up and travel, well then it doesn't really matter what they play.

By Adam Gulledge
Sure this wasn't the "sickest show ever" but the "jams" on the end of these Panic staples above were damn fun. Each one opened up and really got hot. "Tall Boy" can be a write-off sometimes, but it can also be a rager. On this fine evening they cranked it up and had mud slingin'!

After a little breather the band came back out and encored with "Bayou Lena," and "Ain't Life Grand." As "Bayou Lena" closed up JB unhooked his hollow body and went for the mandolin. My buddy and I were begging for "End Of The Show" but both knew it was gonna be "Ain't Life Grand." But anyone who snuffs at "Ain't Life Grand" really outta check themselves. Panic delivered a good one, sending the kids out into one hell of a crazy city with "Ain't Life Grand" booming through their heads.

The first night at The Wiltern was certainly enjoyable, but there seemed to be the sense that things were only getting warmed up, except for that "Slipping Into Darkness." As far as I'm concerned, if you open the show that way, you win. Plain and simple YOU WIN! You can botch "Bear's Gone Fising" and play several "repeats" and still come out with a heavy victory. My only real complaint of the evening was that it seemed to lack cohesion. Things got going and then tapered off. Dark songs then funky ones. But who knows, maybe it was just me who was lacking cohesion (stranger things have happened). Regardless of repeated songs and strange flow, Friday night found us all leaving The Wiltern ready to get real nasty as we went "Slipping into darkness..."

Now Los Angeles is a big-ass city and Panic weren't the only cats to be "covering ground" or finding darkness as my posse was running all over town. From The Riot (The Hyatt) near the House of Blues to Malibu we got around. And from squaring off with some gangsters in the street to watching the waves crash from the deck of a serious crib we got a taste of it all. The details are shady, and the outcome not all that great, but thank the stars that you can't steal Panic from me!

Putting a rather insane end to Friday behind us we washed our hands, beat the sunrise and slipped on back to The Wiltern for part II.

From the get-go on Saturday evening the boys seemed to have more of that "flow" I was talking about. And while I even liked some of the song selections from Friday better, it was quickly becoming apparent that as is usually the case, Panic had every intention of "one upping" themselves.

By Adam Gulledge
Saturday night found a few of the more obscure selections off the new release Ball coming out. A fairly common Ball track "Papa Johnny Road" was a strong opener (better opener than a closer, in my book) and was followed by Schools belting the Vic Chesnutt rocker "Sleeping Man" (keeping with the Covering Ground theory) and this was the first time I saw JoJo snap out of it a bit. You see, if there has been anyone who hasn't been laying into it in the manner we all know he can, I would have to say it's JoJo and his keys. But on Saturday night I must say I saw JB give JoJo some serious encouragement, and perhaps it was just what our boy needed, because Saturday night brought JoJo back, and hot damn if we don't need some more JoJo in our diets!

At this point JB led the band through "Tortured Artist" which had a nice dark section on the back-end, but would be dwarfed by the back-end of "Christmas Katie" as she rocked all night, and hard! "Christmas Katie" has never been one of my favorites, but the last two times I've seen it (L.A. and Tahoe) the band has seriously delivered on the hard back-side.

By Adam Gulledge
"Radio Child" is always a perfect Los Angeles song, and indeed it wasn't the best version imaginable, but it definitely had some heat up inside it. A mid-set "Casa" was well played and left the door open for a rare "Meeting of The Waters." This song has serious potential and showed signs of entering dark territory, a wonderful way to lead into a fat flying, fist-pumping "Thought Sausage" that got everyone in attendance ducking for cover.

Setbreak again and I found myself wandering around the gorgeous Wiltern with a whisky in my hand. As I roamed around I was pleased to see that I wasn't the only one with dark eyes and a red face. As I talked with some fellow Spreadnecks about JoJo and the boyz there seemed to be the feeling that the second set was gonna be rather insane. Rather insane indeed.

Now set II was the heat. Really heated and full of grit. There were some insane moments, and in the end I think I experienced my favorite "post-Mikey Panic moment," but we'll get to that.

By Adam Gulledge
They came out with "Flat Foot Flewzy." I'm not the biggest "Flewzy" fan. I mean there really isn't a Panic song I hate, but "Flewzy" has never been one I crave. But on Saturday evening in L.A. Panic just wouldn't take no for an answer. They came out and cranked it up immediately, getting everyone extremely amped. I actually was very surprised how much I enjoyed the "Flat Foot."

The McConnell song "I Like The Things About Me" is getting better and led into "Nebulous" which is another one of Ball that shows great potential for dark Panic improvisational madness. They delivered on "Nebulous" but the entire set, and perhaps the entire show and weekend, was all about the Bill Withers classic "Use Me." When I heard the bass line to "Use Me" I damn near shit myself (in a good way.) The Wiltern went nuts. I mean nuts. People were shaking and grooving, moving and sliding. It was unreal, and stands to be my favorite "post-Mikey Panic moment" - now that's my cover band! I don't know how long it went on, but it sure felt like 20 minutes of deep dirty groove heavy "Use Me." The Schools Zone got filthy. No longer did the security staff have any say of where we went of what we did, they knew something was goin' on, and they threw in the proverbial towel as eyes were rolled back in the head and JB was screaming, "You just keep on usin' me... 'til you use me up." I sang that song all night, and to be honest, I'm still singing it.

By Adam Gulledge
From that point on it was a free for all. "Blue Indian" was well placed, allowing for a quick breath of sanity and then it was back to aisle swearvin' fist-pumping madness with "Surprise Valley > Drums* > Surprise Valley." Now the little "*" is really hard to explain, and if you weren't there, I don't think I can do it any justice. Let's put it this way, during drums Cecil "P-Nut" Daniels and Stanton Moore were on percussion. As they were finishing up a nice drum section with Sunny and Todd, Stanton ran from behind the kit fixin' to get off stage right as Schools came around the corner. With shock on his body Stanton jumped back and before I could wipe my eyes Stanton was playing Schools' bass with his drumsticks. There was Stanton on his knees bangin' on Schools' Modulus with his sticks as Schools played a few notes... it was quite the scene, especially as I was watching JB get his guitar ready with a shit eatin' grin on his face that seemed to wreak of a proud pappy.

Back to "Surprise Valley" and the Theater was blowing up. The set ran through a few more nasty numbers as "Papa Legba," came home in fine fashion and again we were in the midst of a Panic classic that can either be great, or a bit lacking: "Blackout Blues." But just as they did with "Tall Boy" on Friday, JoJo found his feet and took the helm for this drinkin' track sending it over the top and forcing people to push and shove as we were all falling in and out of bars spilling whiskey all over ourselves.

By Adam Gulledge
"North" was ridiculous! I for one was standing on the steps leading to the floor screaming at JB and scaring a few people around me. At one point I looked up and saw JoJo cracking up at our section... we were bringing it like the good ole days, AND IT FELT GOOD! After a very very hot "North" (with Steve Lopez on added percussion) they took it back down with "Old Joe." Sort of a quick reminder that while we are all raging it up, we have to remember our boy Mikey (as if we could ever forget).

The show ended with a strong double encore of "Fishing" and "Love Tractor." "Fishing" is a great reflective number, and with the "Tractor" waiting in the barn things ended with a bang. It seems that on Saturday night Widespread Panic really did start to "remember where all the levers are." And just as Friday was all about "Slipping Into Darkness" Saturday just kept on "Using Me." I reckon I'll never forget the sound of John Bell crying out, "Talking about you using me, it all depends on what you do, ain't too bad the way you're using me, 'cause I sure am using you do to the things you do..."

Back to pimpers' paradise as we watched the sun come up over the Pacific Ocean with whiskey in our hands and Panic on our minds. A few moments of sleep and it was time again to gather our gumption and bring it harder than nails as WSP embarked on yet another Sunday show. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, NEVER MISS THE SUNDAY SHOW!

By Eric Leaf
The tried and true rule would prove to be accurate again as the acoustic set was clearly coming our way, indicated by the chairs on stage. When they open with "Let's Get The Show On The Road" you know your in for it, you just know it! A short somewhat standard acoustic "Porch Song" (if there is such a thing) followed and then back to the beauty and sadness of Bloodkin/Mikey's "Can't Get High." This song showed its face for the first time since Houser slipped away in Tahoe, and it's nice to know that this one will be in rotation. At first I was thinking I wanted it to remain an elusive rarity, but by the end of the song I was screaming at the top of my lungs and slapping my boy on the back talkin' bout how I love the song, so I guess why the hell not keep this one in the repertoire, it's too good, and way too appropriate for where Panic is to shelf.

The emotional hits just kept coming as "Aunt Avis" taught us all a lesson on "how to continue when I feel I really shouldn't." Could there be more appropriate lyrics for the Panic Pure these days? "Clynic Cynic" still doesn't do it for me, but I do like hearing Todd sing, and before I could even state such a feeling it was JB talking about seeing my sister naked in "Ribs and Whiskey." This acoustic set was shaping up to be out of hand and when they hit "City Of Dreams" after "Nobody's Loss" and "Counting Train Cars" we were witnessing what I would have to say is the best acoustic set they've played (or at least that I've heard).

By Eric Leaf
These ideas of "epicness" were fully secured as the band went into "Who Do You Belong To?" with "my best friend calling the cops on me." And then, are you ready for this: "Don't Be Denied." Acoustic "Don't Be Denied" after "Can't Get High," "Aunt Avis," "City Of Dreams," and "Who Do You Belong To?" My god, man! JB brought the water to my eyes as he sang about Mikey. It's that simple. "Don't Be Denied" is the WSP adaptation of the Neil Young closet classic, and it tells the story of JB and Mikey linking up, starting a band... and the rest is history.

This acoustic set is still settling into my bones. Just as Friday proved to be highlighted by covering "Slipping Into Darkness" and Saturday ran the madness with "Use Me" the choice covers on Sunday told a story that touched us all... "Oh, friend of mine, don't be denied."

Setbreak on this fine Sunday was a time to talk about the covers, highlighted of course by "Don't Be Denied." Panic refuses to fail, they will not allow themselves to rest on what they've done, or who they are. They go out every night and lay it on the line, as do the Panic faithful, and that's why we love the band, and the fans. God bless 'em!

Wasting absolutely no time to kick things into overdrive for the electric set, "Disco" fell into "Pigeons" and it was on! Two classics that more or less call the crowd to arms. It is in some way similar to starting the acoustic set with "Let's Get The Show On The Road," the dancin' "Disco" into one of my all time favorites, "Pigeons," screams "Look out!"

By Mary Ruf
JoJo kept up the good work and showed his voice on "Don't Wanna Lose You" off Ball but it was the nameless, faceless jam for about eight or nine minutes that really broke The Wiltern open. By the time this "jam" was blistering the band dropped into another cover that rarely sees the light of day. The traditional blues number "One Kind Favor" was a treat of the dark, lyrical variety and things only spiraled out of control from there.

When Panic entered the following "Driving Song" soup swirl everybody was freakin' out. On paper the second half of the set looked like this: "Driving Song > Fishwater > Drums* > Fishwater > Climb To Safety > Driving Song," "Greta > Action Man." They opened it as far as they could and shoved it down our throats. The whole venue was in high gear and when I say people were "freakin' out" take my word for it. It was dirty and dark, long and hard, full of angry JB and bomb-dropping Schools. Sunny was cranking his kit and George took a few hot leads that sent the show tumbling out of control. The band took a few of the most impressive songs they play and mashed them into a full-on freak show.

By Adam Gulledge
The band was bobbing and weaving out of Panic classics and I lost control of my mind. I began to forget where I was, who I was with or what song was playing. It all became PANIC. "Driving" and "Fishwater" are two of the all-time Panic greats, and another Jerry Joseph cover "Climb To Safety" before dropping into the back-end of "Driving" was genius. As we were climbing out of the swamp boogie of "Fishwater" and rapping up our "Driving Song" there was hardly a moment to say, "What in the hell just happened?" And that angry chick "Greta" busted out a shotgun and just about finished me off. But if a hot and heavy "Greta" wasn't enough to kill all in attendance, "Action Man" ran over the few SpreadHeads that were still standing. The set ended and my posse was speechless.

A supercharged one song encore, "Conrad," and that was it. There was a moment in "Conrad" that seemed to epitomize the state of Widespread Panic. As George laid into a massive solo JB walked over and stood just to his side facing George, lending support both figuratively and literally. At this same moment Schools came all the way across the stage, further than perhaps I've ever seen, and saddled up right next to John. The two of them were staring at George playing back up as Gmac tore free. It was an amazing sight that seemed to say it all: "Thank You George. You sure can kill it, and we're glad you're the guy." The crowd blew up and Panic felt like Panic! The band opened up plenty of room to fly with "Conrad" and all of a sudden we were preparing for The Warfield.

On Sunday evening I was with a good friend who hadn't seen Panic since last summer, and he was far from sold. I remember looking back at some point in this second set (no idea when) and he had the eyes closed hippie-freak-out-shuffle going... and he doesn't even dance all that much. Damn, it felt good to be in the presence of my band.

In what I would like to call true "new Panic form," the three-night run in Los Angeles proved to be even better than the Tahoe run I had just raged. I saw more smiles on the boy's faces than I have since early 2001, even JoJo looked happy! Ahhh, JoJo. This band cannot get over the top without him, and in L.A. he really stepped it up. From "Slipping Into Darkness" that kicked it off on Friday, "Using Me" on Saturday and just killing it on Sunday, Panic is covering some serious ground as they come into what is undoubtedly the most talked-about and highly anticipated WSP shows since Mikey passed away. Something tells me they are up to the task... I just hope the rest of us are. Stay tuned for the final part of "Goin' Out West With Widespread Panic."

The Kayceman
JamBase | HeadQuarters
Go See Live Music!

When the long standing rumors of a "break" for Widespread Panic turned to fact, it became apparent that I needed to drink up and digest as much Panic as I could possible get. With only a few months 'til Halloween at Madison Square Garden, the much-deserved break will be here before we know what hit us.

In light of these developments and becoming fully aware that I won't be able to see the boys whenever I want to, I am catching as much of their West Coast run as the rest of my life will allow. What follows will be an overview of what goes down as I hit three runs and nine shows ending on the fateful day of August 10th at The Warfield Theater in San Francisco, CA. While it ends in SF, it begins in Tahoe.

Dualities of Life | 7.26 & 7.27 | Caesar's Tahoe | South Lake Tahoe, NV

I've long been aware that life is full of dualities, double meanings and tough calls where it's never black and white. This can be seen everyday and all the time. From such philosophical concepts as "going for yours" or "helping the smaller guy out." From "making money to survive" to "not making money your life." From "having a good time here today" to "keeping an eye on the future." The list goes on and on, and differs from person to person, but we all face the dualities of life.

I tend to, and have for some time now, allowed Widespread Panic to be a model or a major landmark on my map of life. From their songs and lyrics, to their attitudes and fan base, they have always shed light onto life. And with the state of WSP today, the dualities are burning hard and heavy.

By Eric Leaf
It's difficult to talk about Panic and not bring Mikey Houser into the equation; anyone who is vaguely familiar with the band would have to agree. But as Widespread Panic folklore begins to embrace another chapter, it is becoming easier to smile while staring at JB or Schools. The band's sound is coming together and the various pieces are gelling more and more each and every time I see them. But moving forward with the band takes work. It is necessary to grab hold of change, and release one's preconceived notions and expectations. I for one have been listening to the "new" Panic. It took me a while to be able to, but it's high time to dive back in. I've been listening instead of fighting, dancing instead of crying, and it's starting to work for me. In order to have fun today, you can't stare at yesterday. Of course we hold the past close, but we move into the future - yes, more dualities. So on we go to one of the smaller and more enjoyable venues I've ever seen WSP in.

Sitting just over the California state line in Nevada, Caesar's Tahoe is an intimate, warm and very friendly theater. The staff is kind, the room sounds great, and there isn't a bad place to shake in the whole building. The Saturday night show (7.26) was a tough ticket to get, and by the time I had a drink in my hand there were countless fingers in the air. Moving past the searching masses I made my way into the venue, and up to the Schools Zone.

By Eric Leaf
Anticipation can quickly turn to skepticism when you know certain songs and sounds you crave simply won't be there, but again, we must move forward. As I've stated Widespread Panic permeates my life, not just my musical enjoyment. And moving forward and not wallowing in the miseries of days gone past can and should be a model for all of us. You don't know what cards your gonna be dealt, all you can do is play them. Just don't stop playing, don't give up...

All thought ceased as the lights dropped and JB could be seen emerging from back stage. With his acoustic in hand there were only a few song options as John Bell led the band through a bilingual beauty named "Casa Del Grillo." "Bear's Gone Fishin'" followed and allowed things to open up a bit and although "Black Out Blues" wasn't the most inspired version ever, it served its purpose as the crowd began to get a bit rowdy, dance a little more and bump around. The words "I Hope you don't mind me barging in the door like this in the middle of the night" and "I woke up in your bed this morning, and you were sleeping on the floor" on a Saturday night where the bars never close and casinos are king seemed rather apropos.

By db Wayner
As the set grew stronger my hyper-analysis of the song meanings (more on this later) continued to flood my mind. The last song Mikey wrote, "Travelin' Man," followed and led into the Panic (not to mention Houser) staple "Space Wrangler." JB sounded as good as ever on "Wrangler" and with "Time machines and new routines" things were starting settle.

The Schools-led "Sleeping Man" was strong as always, and minus a slightly botched intro to "Jack" all was going quite well in the first set. "One Arm Steve" and "North" tied up the first of four sets in Tahoe. Closing a set with the madness of Jerry Joseph's "North" was just what I was looking for. Partying in Northern California/Nevada at the foot of the Sierras is just the place for "North." JB was belting lyrics and people were falling into it. Fists were waving and I heard the screams of many behind me as Panic was starting to roll down the mountain.

Set break was a joy as you could come and go out of the venue with ease. At various points in the two set breaks (Saturday and Sunday) I found myself at the casino bar, talking and watching spun-out SpreadHeads gamble, hanging in a friend's room upstairs from the venue, and at one point I even strolled outside for a hot second. Being able to roam free during a show was a rare treat, and one I took full advantage of.

By Eric Leaf
Set II was pretty heated. "Little Kin," "Disco > It Ain't No Use" and I was swimming in it. I was itching for a "Disco" opener, but to have "Little Kin" lead the way into the instrumental dance number was even a notch better. The Meters' "It Ain't No Use" was possibly the high point of the night for me. I just love the way JB takes that song and drives it home. Rapping and rolling, rocking and talking, JB proves time and again why there is no frontman even in his league. "Blue Indian" allowed for some breathing room and thoughts of Mikey, but rest didn't last long as "Christmas Katie > Chilly Water > Drums > Chilly Water" were served up all nasty and wet. The jam on the back of "Christmas Katie" was hot! JB screamed, "Let it last all night!" and I'll be damned if the kids I was hangin' with didn't take it to heart. "Chilly Water" is one of those rare songs that I could hear almost every night and never get sick of it. It also happens to be a song that the "new" Panic plays particularly well. As I was staring at JB and screaming each word at him I was locked in. The expressions on his face were priceless as he slid into that dirty, strained, borderline evil and angry John Bell face. As I watched, listened and raged the genius of WSP was surrounding me. Take the wording of Panic, the way JB describes things. In "Chilly Water" JB doesn't say, "My horse is tired from running through the city, I want him to have a drink." No. Instead you get, "Well my horse's eyes are glassy, he breathed the city deep down to the bottom of his lungs last night. I lead his natural body to the trough to regain his might." And as water flew through the air and my hot body was quenched, JB brought salvation.

By Eric Leaf
"Pilgrims" sounded great, and really showed the hard work George McConnell has been putting in. The delicate chords and detailed essence of this classic is growing and gathering strength - kudos to George. "Bayou Lena" and "Love Tractor" were a nice combo to end the set, but didn't quite take me "over the top."

For the encore we were treated to more marvelous JB as he touched on the emotional aspects of the Van Morrison gem "And It Stoned Me." But not to send us out to the casinos and streets of Tahoe with a tear in the eye, the band threw out a nice "Conrad" and the words, "No brother, I just need some room to fly" echoed in my head all night long.

Night one was strong. Proving to me that this "new" Widespread Panic really does get better each time I venture out to see them. The night grew long, and my mind weary. All I could do was hang with my good friends enjoy the scene and wait, salivating for the Sunday night show.

As I strolled on down to my regular spot on the floor between Schools and JB I was pleased to see the acoustic set-up. The band has been playing sporadic acoustic sets for some time now, and on the Sunday of a two-night run seemed a prefect time to bust one out.

The whole set was flat-out fun, and left the door open to massive hyper-analysis. I tend to believe that we the fans think about song selection and hidden meanings far more than the band, but I can't help it... and I love to do it.

JB sitting down and screaming the words to "Stop Breakin' Down Blues" was certainly a treat. When "Stop Breakin' Down" led to JB on his mandolin with "Ain't Life Grand" I began to over-think a bit, but "Fishing" off of the new release Ball pulled me out of it. The Todd Nance song "Clinic Cynic" didn't do much for me, but the "Who Do You Belong To?" and "Genesis" that followed were wonderful. I had never heard Panic do "Who Do You Belong To?" acoustic, and it worked! Then there's "Genesis." Well, "Genesis" has long been one of my favorite "mellow" tunes. The words that Jorma Kaukonen wrote fit John Bell perfectly, and lend themselves to analysis of the current Panic situation. "The time has come for us to pause and think of living as it was. Into the future we must cross." Now as I said, I tend to believe that the band does far less thinking about songs than we do, but for me the message is clear as day. While we think of what once was (Mikey), we can and should remember, but "into the future we must pass." Ahhh, the dualities of life. And as the song ties up JB sings, "And there I found myself with you and breathing felt like something new, going alone with you." The tears welled up and the hairs on my arms stood proud.

By Jackie Jasper
When the set ended with "I Like The Things About Me," "Can't Get High," and "Imitation Leather Shoes" my mind began to do hot laps. Following the "Genesis" and "Counting Train Cars" we found ourselves listening to George sing "I Like The Things About Me." A good song with potential, and one George sings very well. After the George song Panic busts out "Can't Get High." The band hadn't played "Can't Get High" since the last show Mikey ever played on 7.02.02 in Cedar Rapids, IA. Being able to hear it again was worth every penny I spent that weekend. And if you are prone to hyper-analysis like I am consider this. A George song, with him singing, "I like the things about me" into "Can't Get High" for the first time since the day Mikey was forced to stop playing, into "Imitation Leather Shoes." So you have George setting up "Can't Get High" with JB singing, "Now that you're gone [Mikey?] I'm sober every night, I can't get high, I can't get it right." This leads to the bluegrassy/acoustic version of "Imitation" with JB SCREAMING "I don't wanna fake it anymore." You can tell me 'til your blue in the face that none of this means anything, but I will disagree till the day I die. I mean how could they deliver a new/rare George song and let it bleed into "Can't Get High" and follow it with the dark words "I don't wanna fake it anymore." To each their own, but I'll continue to analyze all night while JB's voice invades my subconscious.

When the boys plugged in for set II they brought some heat. "Thought Sausage," "Fishwater > Drums > Red Hot Mama" is the way to start a set. "Thought Sausage" is another song that the "new" Panic plays particularly well, and like "Chilly Water." "Fishwater" is a song I can't seem to get enough of... "Still I want more more more."

By Adam Gulledge
Hearing "Hatfield" after "Red Hot Mama" was perfect. It had been some time since I'd had the pleasure of watching JB take this one over, and his off-the-cuff rap sent me spinning. "Weight Of The World" seemed more than appropriate, and the "Greta > Cream Puff War," "Porch Song," "Makes Sense To Me" second half blew the doors open. "Greta" was one of the few times I experienced full-on chaos. When George and JB entered the dark improvisational section of this song and Schools held down the thunder I began to get lost, at least for a second. As the guitars wrapped around each other and erased the lines of distinction I actually forgot what song it was for a moment. (This notion of getting so lost in a song that I don't know what it is, is in fact a very good thing, something the Panic of old used to do to me quite frequently).

After "Greta" whipped my ass, "Cream Puff War" certainly didn't help me regain consciousness. I was soooo happy to be rapped up in Panic, dancing and sweating, jumping and screaming... Panic had finally taken over! Not to stop being an insane freak who thinks too much about WSP, I took great notice of "Cream Puff" leading to "Porch Song." A Grateful Dead song ("Cream Puff") into what I consider to be more or less a "Mikey song" ("Porch Song"). Now I realize this one is definitely a stretch, and I highly doubt the band was planning in this fashion, but I was seeing a preview for The Warfield. August 9th (the Saturday Warfield show) is the day Jerry Garcia passed away, and August 10th is the day Mikey died. The Grateful Dead into Mikey, just like August 9th (the day Jerry died) at Jerry's old stomping grounds into August 10th the day Houser left this world? Yes it's a stretch, but all I can do is tell you what I feel.

The show was great, perhaps even better than the night before. And if the encore had been a bit stronger I would have no problem saying Sunday was better than Saturday, but it's a tough call from where I'm sitting. "Nobody's Loss," "Papa Johnny Road" wasn't a bad way to end the show; just didn't send me. I certainly felt "Nobody's Loss" but I was beggin' for "Arleen" or "No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature." But can we really complain? NO! Widespread Panic brought it, and they brought it harder than I've seen since Mikey passed. A good friend of mine said something to me that has really struck a chord... something all serious SpreadHeads should at the very least consider. My boy was telling me how he loves being able to see Panic this way. He said, "It's like you get to reinvent your favorite band. Each night there's a chance you may see a song you thought was gone. Each night a song that didn't sound right the first time, may come out smoking. This is a chance to watch Widespread Panic grow and develop into another powerhouse. Not the same powerhouse, and of course we will always miss Houser, but a band that can kick your ass none the less!" That's right my friends, more dualities.

While I sure do wish I were in Vegas for two nights at The Joint, guess I better get some rest 'cause the Wiltern Theater is only days away, and there ain't no sleep for the wicked in the City of Lost Angels.

The Kayceman
JamBase | HeadQuarters
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[Published on: 8/7/03]

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